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Britain Helps Stop Millions of Pounds of Heroin From Reaching Europe

Why Global Citizens Should Care
The illegal heroin trade in Tanzania is driving corruption and instability, and impeding progress in eradicating poverty. But in helping putting an end to this drug trade, UK aid is both pushing forward development, and preventing heroin and organised crime spreading in Europe. You can join us by taking action to voice your support for UK aid here

Africa is currently experiencing the sharpest increase in heroin use of anywhere in the world, with a whole spectrum of criminal networks and political elites embroiled in the trade. 

In recent years, the amount of heroin being shipped from Afghanistan across the western Indian Ocean and along a network of sea routes in East and southern Africa has “increased considerably,” according to the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime (GITOC). 

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Most of the heroin is ending up being sold in Europe — but it’s also arriving in countries across Asia, Africa, and, to a limited extent, North America.

And now, UK aid is helping crack down on the illegal trade. 

A £1.3 million anti-smuggling scheme means British experts — including the Royal Marines, UK Border Force, and the National Crime Agency (NCA) — can support Tanzanian and Kenyan officials in investigating organised crime, according to the Guardian

Since the beginning of the scheme, one of the biggest hauls captured by Tanzanian officials supported by the UK’s NCA was 112kg of heroin. A kilo is reportedly worth up to £30,000 wholesale and, on the streets, can be worth up to £60,000. It means, in a single haul, officials stopped up to £6.7 million worth of heroin reaching the streets. 

“Large quantities of illegal drugs being smuggled from Asia to Europe are channelled through Tanzania — which is undermining stability and holding back development in the country,” said Penny Mordaunt, the UK’s international development secretary, who visited Msasani Bay, off Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, earlier this month. 

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“We’re sharing UK expertise with the Tanzanian authorities to help them crack down on this serious organised crime, to interrupt supply chains and to bring the perpetrators to justice,” she added. 

“This is a win for Tanzania as we tackle the drivers of instability and poverty which hold back development, but also a win for the UK as we are tackling criminal networks that work in both countries and stopping drugs and organised crime coming to our shores,” Mordaunt said

“Combating organised crime and improving security is good for developing nations and directly contributes towards the security and safety of the UK,” said Mordaunt. “That double win is what we need from every pound we spend from the aid budget.” 

According to a report published in July by GITOC, the land-based Balkan trafficking route to Western Europe has become increasingly difficult for traffickers to use, because of conflict and heightened law enforcement there. 

It means that the southern route, via Africa, has gained popularity. The UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) believes about 40% of the heroin crossing the Indian Ocean is headed for Tanzania — before continuing its journey on to Europe and elsewhere. 

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Generally, heroin is first shipped to Africa on motorised, wooden dhows, built in the United Arab Emirates, according to the report. The vessels are loaded with between 100kg and 1,000kg consignments off the Makran coast of southern Pakistan. 

The dhows anchor off the coast of Africa in international waters, and flotillas of small boats collect the heroin and ferry it to various beaches, coves, or islands, or offload it into small commercial harbours. 

GITOC warned that the illegal drug flows by sea to East Africa are “considerably harder to police.”